Opinion


Sharks don’t eat plastic




Beyond Brushstrokes
By Marivic Rufino

Posted on April 30, 2012


How many dolphins, whales and other marine animals have to die before the government takes action on environmental pollution? Not long ago, a dolphin died from severe gastritis and a diet of plastic. It was not the first mammal to choke on the deadly garbage dumped into the sea. It will not be the last one.

The specter of pollution threatens our natural sanctuaries, beaches and coral reefs. The shimmering seas of the Philippines are gradually being transformed into dump sites for organic waste and toxic waste.

Manila Bay and the Pasig River are prime examples of ecological disasters. According to an old Senate environmental report, “the destruction of the country’s coastal ecosystem has taken a heavy toll on our marine resources. Only six percent of the country’s coral reefs are in excellent condition while 70% is in various stages of deterioration.”

Marine biologists estimate that if our mangroves and coral reefs were intact, the country would have 960,000 tons of fish every year. Protecting our mangroves and coral reefs would ease the food security problem.

Marine life cannot survive in a sea choked with plastic, rubber and other non-organic flotsam. Tin cans, deflated balloons, cigarette butts, bottles, and tetrapaks are synthetic materials that cannot be dissolved and recycled by the ocean. These artificial modern day wonders are permanent threats to the environment.

SHARK SEASON

Seafarers describe life at the ocean by seasons -- habagat, the ocean wind that roars inland, and amihan, the mountain breeze that whirls to the open sea.

During the long hot summer, habagat churns the underwater currents inward. The clear seawater turns murky as discharges from passing ships drift towards the shoreline. Beaches have become littered with assorted floating debris. The heaviest junk sinks to the shallow parts of the sea.

The root of the problem lies in the general lack of environmental awareness and apathy. People do not seem to appreciate the fact that the ocean is a vibrant world with thriving marine life.

Other practical factors aggravate the situation:

• the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the government authorities in preventing pollution of the seas; and

• the pervasive attitude of negligence by some shipping companies.

Sea vessels should dispose of their garbage at their ports of destination. However, errant crews and sailors take convenient short cuts by disgorging trash at sea -leaving a trail of waste and toxins. The culprits act under the protective cover of darkness. With or without the knowledge of the ship captain.

One of the most dangerous environments hazards is plastic. When thrown into the sea, non-biodegradable plastic and Styrofoam suffocate the fishes and kill other living organisms. Unenlightened people who litter like to rationalize their folly with a favorite catchall phrase: “Sharks eat anything.”

NOT TRUE!

The fearsome scavengers of the high seas are carnivores. Asserting their dominance in the aquatic food chain, sharks prey on smaller, weaker creatures. They devour living flesh -- mammal, amphibian and piscine.

Sharks (and dolphins) don’t eat plastic!

DELICACIES, CULINARY DELIGHTS

On the lighter side of life, let us analyze sharks and human beings in the context of their dietary preferences and restrictions.

Have you ever heard of a salad loving, seaweed-eating shark? Or a vegetarian bon vivant-gourmet? Incongruous, impossible combinations!

Sharks have a keen sense of smell and highly developed taste buds. They dislike unnatural, unpalatable junk -- plastic, Styrofoam, tin foil, cardboard, glass and metal. Their cuisine peculiarities border on the exotic -- types that wiggle and swim. The infinite varieties of fish, mermaids and piranhas included, and humans are delectable items on their menu. Without flesh in their diet sharks would lose their killing instinct, their terrifying macho appeal.

(Try feeding a hungry shark a discarded styro sandwich box or a plastic straw. He will throw up in disgust and devour your arm. Remember, plastic is not shark food.)

Men, the quintessential predators, share some epicurean tastes with their marine counterparts. The highly evolved gourmands prefer sophisticated, rare delicacies -- carpaccio, steak tartare, sashimi and shark’s fin. (If sharks enjoy eating humans, then humans must return the compliment. Rare shark’s fin is an aphrodisiac. Tit for tat!)

The more earthy macho types enjoy simple hearty fare -- red meat, tons of calorific sauces with rice.

There are occasional, sometimes compulsive cravings for unhealthy junk food and stomach pacifiers -- cholesterol-heavy burgers with French fries or crunchy chicharon.

The common food denominator among all earth and marine predators (those sharks with fins and two legs) remain the same: edible flesh and fresh delicacies.

To all shark food lovers (and pseudo-gourmets), remember the saying, “You are what you eat.”